Tuesday, November 22, 2011

John Stott's Daily Prayer

This morning - over another cup of coffeee - I read the daily prayer of John Stott. I was impressed again with the simplicity of prayer and a life of seeking God. This prayer wouldn't set the world on fire if prayed just once or twice. But imagine the impact on your life if this was your focus and passion that fueled you every day.


Heavenly Father, I pray that I may live this day in your presence and please you more and more.

Lord Jesus, I pray that this day I may take up my cross and follow you.

Holy Spirit, I pray that this day you will fill me with yourself and cause your fruit to ripen in my life:

Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control

Holy, blessed and glorious trinity, three persons in one God, have mercy upon me.

Almighty God, Creator and sustainer of the universe, I worship you.

Lord Jesus Christ, Savior and Lord of the World, I worship you.

Holy Spirit, Sanctifier of the people of God, I worship you.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,

As it was in the beginning, is now, and shall be forever, Amen.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Selah

In classical music it is the silence between the sounds that takes a piece from technical to transcendent. Life is more than just a succession of notes without a pause. In the lives of people too, there must likewise be pauses that define and shape the nature of who we are. Today I enter one of those silences in which I believe God will shape and refine me in a new way.

The board of deacons at Meadow Creek Church asked for my resignation last week. On Sunday I announced my resignation to the congregation. It was a very sad day, but I sense the Lord in it. Although I am deeply saddened by this turn of events, I am not surprised. I affirm their decision and recognize that the chemistry is not there. There are no issues of integrity in any way. This is more of a parting over issues of values and vision.
As for Moe and I…this week we start a search for God’s next place of ministry. We have been afforded a severance that, Lord willing, will tide us over until a new place opens up. In the meantime, pray for us that God will use this time in our lives to stretch our faith and deepen our relationship with him. We don’t know where God will lead us, but it will be towards his heart.

This unintentional sabbatical may even allow me to finish my doctoral thesis on peacemaking. That sounds pretty ironic, I know. You just have to laugh sometimes.
There is a time for everything… “ a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;” (Ecclesiastes 3:7, ESV) This season is a time of silence between the sounds that God will use to create a transcendent moment in our lives.

Selah,
Randy

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Christians Get Depressed Too

In preparation for my message on July 10, I came across a very helpful book on depression from a pastoral perspective. I appreciate his pastoral (as opposed to academic) approach from a thoroughly biblical aspect. The book is called, "Christians Get Depressed Too" by David Murray. For twelve years the author pastored in a beautiful, but isolated, dark and wet part of the UK. He served in an area where depression is seemingly part of the landscape. He knows what he's talking about and provides help for Christians who struggle with depression.

Depression has many sources and this blog post cannot begin to enumerate them. However, they do seem to share a common element when it comes to the mind. When we face depression, our minds often are unclear and are vulnerable to doubt the present reality of things that we formerly knew with certainty. Our emotions can override our judgment and render us helpless against the internal onslaught of wrong thinking. It is that aspect (and it is only one aspect) of depression that I wanted to address from a biblical standpoint.

Psalm 77 is a biographical lament poem written by Asaph. It is fairly clear that he demonstrates many symptoms of depression – including the doubts that invade his thinking. As we face doubts (whether we are depressed or not) it is wise to turn to the pages of Scripture to allow God himself to remind us of his promises and to assure us tenderly of his grace towards us.

In your own journey I encourage you to write down your thoughts, fears, hopes, prayers, etc. in a personal journal. David Murray cites several journal questions in his book. I share them here with the hopes that they may help you (or a friend of yours) begin the long journey of healing and hope.

  1. My life situation (Time? Place? People? Events?)
  2. My feelings (Sum up your mood in one word if you can. Are you sad, worried, guilty, angry, ashamed, etc. You may want to rate the intensity of your feeling by determining what percentage of the time you feel that way.)
  3. My thoughts (What am I thinking of at this time? About myself? Others? The present? The future?)
  4. My analysis (Identify false or unhelpful thinking patterns such as false extremes, false generalizations, false filter, etc.)
  5. My behavior (Impact of 1-4 on me and my relations with others. Stopped helpful activities? Started unhelpful activities? Reduced activity? Hyper-activity?)
  6. My reasons (Why do I believe the thoughts I listed in step 3 are true? What evidence is there to support my conclusion?)
  7. My challenge (List evidence and reasons against the thoughts in step 3. Think of what God would point you to, to show you that your thoughts are not completely true.)
  8. My conclusion (Come to a balanced conclusion, which will also be truthful and helpful.)
  9. My new feelings (Copy some or all of the feelings from step 2 and rate them again.)
  10. My plan (How will I put the balanced conclusion into practice?)

God bless you as you work through these questions. "May the God of all hope fill you with joy and peace as you trust in him. And may you overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." (Romans 15:13, NIV)

Pastor Randy

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Church Fathers on Peacemaking

Today I spent a few hours working on some background research for my thesis and worked through what the Church Fathers said in regard to Matthew 5:9. What does "blessed" mean? "Who are the peacemakers?" "To what extent does peacemaking go?"

I came across a letter from St. Jerome written to Theophilus, the bishop of Alexandria in 399 A.D. Apparently, St. Jerome and John of Jerusalem were having a tiff over various theological and ecclesiastical matters (that I won't get into here). What I want you to see is the beauty of Jerome's language and the vivid pictures he creates with his words.



St. Jerome in his study

"You have quoted many passages from the sacred books in praise of peace, you have flitted like a bee over the flowery fields of scripture, you have culled with cunning eloquence all that is sweet and conducive to concord. I was already running after peace, but you have made me quicken my pace: my sails were set for the voyage but your exhortation has filled them with a stronger breeze. I drink in the sweet streams of peace not reluctantly and with aversion but eagerly and with open mouth."

I wish that today's peacemaking could carry that same spirit. Sadly, the history of mankind is less one of generosity and more of selfishness and defiance between each other. Cyprian gives us the character of a biblical peacemaker in his First Treatise on the Unity of the Church.

"If we are fellow-heirs with Christ, let us abide in the peace of Christ; if we are sons of God, we ought to be peacemakers. "Blessed," says He, "are the peacemakers; for they shall be called the sons of God." It behoves the sons of God to be peacemakers, gentle in heart, simple in speech, agreeing in affection, faithfully linked to one another in the bonds of unanimity."

My wish for the church would be to take up the example of our church Fathers. Set your sails for peace. Be gentle in heart, simple in speech, agreeing in affection, and linked in the bonds of unity.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Seeds of Truth - 4/15/11

Scripture: Psalm 19:7-11

Observation:

The law, statutes, precepts, etc. are more than simple words, they are the words of God and they bring delight to the soul.

The poetic structure of this psalm goes beyond a few observations. I remember from prior studies that this section is part of the chiastic form of the larger Psalm. The first part of the Psalm draws attention to how God reveals himself to all people through his creation. The last verses deal with God's very specific revelation to the individual through his thoughts, meditations, and prayers. The focus of the Psalm is on these verses - which highlight God's unique revelation to all who have the Word of God.

Just a quick note here on why I love the Old Testament so much. At the time of this writing there was no New Testament. In fact, many of the prophets had yet to be born. But David speaks so passionately about the Word that you can't help but be drawn to it. He isn't just talking about the stories and the miracles - though they are there. He isn't just talking about the prophecies of Christ - though they are there. He isn't just reflecting on the promises of God's goodness - though they are there. He isn't meditating on the character of God through the wisdom literature - though that is certainly there. He is addressing the Laws of God as revealed through Moses.

As a king of Israel he was required to hand-write his own copy of the Pentateuch so that he would know its requirements. David is expressing here a first-hand love of this law, the precepts, the commands and so forth. It is the law that governs behavior and the precepts that provide the foundation for a just and generous society. The fear of the Lord is the basis for all wisdom and the way that we approach a holy God.

David drinks it all in and absolutely gushes in his delight in the words of the Lord. They are like water in a desert. They are light in dark places. They are truth in a world of relativity. They are life-giving morsels in a land of spiritual famine.

Oh how I love your law.

Application:

The Lord has still been impressing me with new thoughts as I meditate on all of the themes of plants that grow. Maybe it's the spring (sort of - maybe snow tomorrow), but I have been reflecting on so many thoughts of planting and harvesting.

The parable of the Sower and the Seeds (Matthew 13)

The Lord of the Harvest (Luke 10:2)

Oaks of Righteousness (Isaiah 61:3) and a garden (Isaiah 61:11)

The harvest as a sign of God's blessing (Psalm 67:6)

None of these themes were conceived ahead of time as I selected the verses for the 40 days. But God has been using them to remind me that what is sown will eventually be harvested. Where the seed is cast the fruit will last. (OK, that's a pretty bad rhyme...)

Prayer:

Today, Lord cultivate the soil of my heart anew. Turn over the earth and upset the compacted places of my heart. Freely plow up the weeds and break up the hard soil. Plant your word deep in my mind and heart today as I feast on your truth. Bring joy and delight to me as I follow your commands. May this day be one of planting new seeds and also a season of bearing fruit. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Amen.


 


 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Listening with your Heart – 4/12/11

Scripture: Romans 10:8-11

"...it is with your heart that you believe and are justified..."

Observation:

The word is near you - very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart. (see Deuteronomy 30:14). Jesus also said that the two of them are connected when it comes to my speech (see Luke 6:45).

The word that is planted in the heart bears its fruit through my lips. What I say is an indication of what is happening in my heart. If my heart is full of the presence of the Lord, then my speech will represent him. Here is a good indicator of the state of my heart.

Application:

I know that as a teacher my words mean a great deal. I also know that when words are public there is a good chance that I'll slip up and say stupid things. That's being part of humanity. But what is the overall tenor of my conversation?

Today I will watch my words carefully. Not to hold my tongue, but to try hard to evaluate the state of my heart through observing the words that I speak (and write).

Prayer:

Today, Lord, I surrender my words and my heart to your control. Overtake me by the power of your love and transform my heart. Cause me to love your word and your sovereign rule over me. May my words today be words of grace and mercy and truth. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Amen.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Listening to God with your Heart


Hearing God with your Heart (John 17:6-8, 17-19)
""I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. " (John 17:6–8, NIV)
"Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. " (John 17:17–19, NIV)

Listening with your heart is different than learning with your head.

Devotional Reading
The chief aim of devotional reading of the Bible is not to learn more information about God, but to encounter God in his Word. It is more for transformation than information.
Spiritual reading is slow, thoughtful, a conscious interaction with the Lord along the way.
Here are some of the important elements in devotional reading.
Listen to and Understand the Bible text. Read a short section several times slowly. Take your time and reflect. Watch for helpful indicators of what the text means. (look for repeated words or phrases, structure of the text, metaphors and images that may be helpful.) Invite God to teach you from his Word as you read it or listen to it with your heart.
Remember it – take the message deeply to yourself in terms of its implications for your own situation. This is entering into the world of the text, taking the Bible to be the script for your life.
Pray it – transform the Word of God into a prayer to God by praying its impact and implications back to him.
Live it out – submit to the Word by taking what you read and meditating on it throughout the day and praying over it throughout the day, living it plainly and humbly in your personal life and relationships. (Eph 2:10 living)
Share it – share its impact on yourself with others